We vaguely remember the last weeks of February when COVID-19 began to pop up in our newsfeeds more and more frequently. By early March, we were dealing with chaos— canceled orders, toilet paper shortages and what seemed like round the clock crisis management meetings. Although things are far from over, we’ve pondered over the last few weeks how this pandemic has changed us as individuals, as a company and as an industry.

The floral industry is an incredibly resilient and strong community and we want to show what others have learned during the coronavirus outbreak. These are very personal and thoughtful opinions of those that we have admired for many years. Some work at Golden Flowers, others are industry acquaintances and there are even a few we connected with via social media during the scariest and most uncertain times of the pandemic. We asked each industry member several questions that we thought were important to address. Please note, some of the answers have been edited for clarity and length. Here are their answers:  

Alexandra Floro- Owner of Under New MGMT Floral Design Studio

We first heard of Under New MGMT when Busy Phillips posted a completely unique floral arrangement on her IG story over a year ago. We were immediately mesmerized by Alexandra’s floral designs, concepts we had never seen before—vibrant colors, use of floral staples with beautiful novelty products and a mix of pop culture references that kept us wanting more. What sealed the deal for us was how authentic Alexandra was—she made it clear Under New MGMT was not a design studio for everyone. In a world where so many are willing to sacrifice their values and integrity to “make it big”, Alexandra is unapologetic when combining her floral designs with her opinions on the subjects that matter to her. She is a civil rights advocate, believes in the need for inclusion and the creative power of underrepresented communities. When things became clear that this crisis would hit us hard, Alexandra was one of the first people we noticed to launch a fundraiser, The Rosie Program, to help freelance floral designers in Los Angeles who were suddenly out of work. She is both a fierce and compassionate woman—we need more women leaders like her in our industry, in this world.  

Q: As a member of the flower industry, what has COVID-19 taught you? 

A: As a member of the floral industry, COVID-19 has definitely strengthened my sense of community & empathy. You can’t have florists without farmers or wholesalers, and vice versa. COVID-19 has also taught me about patience, setting boundaries, and the utter importance of building meaningful relationships with your business community. As a small business owner, these 3 lessons I’ve learned have been paramount! 

Q: How do you think this pandemic will affect the future of our industry? 

A: The floral industry is tough. We get up early and work non-stop. We are a resilient bunch so I think we will see this through. I do, however, think there will be a more of an emphasis on working with smaller, local farmers. I’ve noticed customers are really interested in learning where their flowers are coming from and how they can help support those farmers at this time.  

Q: Do you believe flowers have the ability to connect people? If so, how?

A: I have many stories about the ability of flowers connecting people. As a florist, every day, you create a physical representation of someone’s connection to another, including what that connection is to themselves! I wholeheartedly believe that flowers, along with food, are one of most pure ways to physically express love/your feelings for someone. For the past few months, I’ve heard lovely stories of people just wanting to connect with someone they love; using flowers as the means. I’ve also heard too many stories of heartbreak and grieving.

Anne Hernandez- Sales Advisor at Golden Flowers

Anne, or Annie as most of us call her, has been at Golden Flowers for more than 20 years. If you’ve had the honor of knowing/meeting her you know what a special person she is. Anytime the digital marketing team needs volunteers for testimonials or for a special project, she’s the first one to say yes and excited to participate. She’s kind and honest and has worked hard over the years to cultivate meaningful relationships with her customers—some would even call her a friend or part of their extended family now. She’s a woman with an enormous heart that is highly respected and admired by her peers. When she speaks, we listen! She holds a very special place in our hearts and we miss seeing her offering us ‘cafecito’, or Cuban coffee, every afternoon.

Q: As a member of the flower industry, what has COVID-19 taught you? 

A: I am proud to be in such fine company.  From administrators that truly care about their people and their families and across all sectors of the industry, we collectively mourn losses, learn lessons and I think we are becoming a more caring and considerate community and world.  At Golden Flowers, we have heard a million times, “we help people express feelings with flowers”. During these past few months, when we couldn’t physically be there, we have been beautifully represented by flowers.  We can be proud of what we do and of everyone in the chain that works, not only as a team, but as a family.

Q: How do you think this pandemic will affect the future of our industry?

A: There is still a long road ahead of us, but I believe we are on our way to recovery.  And even though we may have been more in tune with what the planet needs because what we do depends on how well we treat it, covid-19 may be the reset button that we all needed to re-evaluate how we do things and change for all the right reasons.

Q: Do you believe flowers have the ability to connect people? If so, how?

A: Yes, just in the way we have connected with our customers in the past months. First listening to their fears of what the future would bring and even if they would have a business to come back to.  Sharing information as it was coming out about small business loans, family layoffs and kids struggling with this new reality. Listening to the things that mattered to them at every turning point – it wasn’t just about the sale. It was about their security: physical, emotional and financial.  Cheering them on every step of the way and celebrating their successes even as things have not returned to “normal”. 

We’ve also seen how other industry members helped keep that connection alive. The retailers that stayed open and found new ways to adhere to the social distancing rules, but still got the job done.  How they rallied to get flowers that would, otherwise, be thrown away into the hands of healthcare workers, the true heroes in this madness. Flowers were a great choice to show appreciation for anyone providing a service– it conveyed the emotion.

Augusto Solano- Executive President of the Colombian Association of Flower Exporters

Augusto Solano has been the executive president of Asocolflores since 2000. He has worked diligently for many years to position the Colombian flower as a powerful force within the international stage. He and his team are also responsible for the development of sustainable and socially responsible practices amongst member farms. We reached out to him to get his insight—having been on “the other side” of things for so many years, we wanted to know how this experience had not only shaped him as an individual but also as the international representative of the Colombian flower industry.

Q: As a member of the flower industry, what has COVID-19 taught you? 

A: Covid-19 has taught me that human beings are fragile, that the world is very interconnected, that it is important to live in the present, that it’s important for industries to have strong associations that can react and support their members in real-time during unprecedented events. It has also taught me how useful flowers have been to relieve stress caused by this crisis.

Q: How do you think this pandemic will affect the future of our industry? 

A: Undoubtedly the pandemic will affect the industry in many ways:

- E-commerce will play a much bigger role. 
- Some consumers may limit their flower purchases if their income has been reduced or if they have lost their jobs.
- On the other hand, people have become more sensitive, more emotional. They value more personal relationships and may find in flowers the best way to express their feelings and also enjoy them themselves.

Q: Do you have any recommendations to floral wholesalers/importers/distributors? 

A: At this point, I think it is clear that all industry segments are interconnected and dependent on each other. So, we need to work together to achieve common goals. More importantly, this crisis has made it clear that we can no longer use excuses—we must create an efficient campaign that effectively communicates the benefits of flowers for humans all over the world.

Q: Do you believe flowers have the ability to connect people? If so, how?

A: Not only have several studies shown that flowers connect people but I experience it all the time. Furthermore, flowers open doors. In the past, we have sent flower arrangements to key figures in Washington DC and it has proven successful in our networking. During the pandemic, we have come together to donate flowers to first-responders, elderly people, and people with low-incomes. The testimonies and pictures we have received from these floral donations are the best proof of what flowers can do during uncertain times.

Elizabeth Jaime- Owner of Calma Floral Design Studio

Calma Floral has become one of Miami’s favorite floral design studios in just over a year and a half. After leaving her job as a magazine editor in New York City, Elizabeth started Calma Floral with a fresh perspective to floral design and very approachable and hands-on floral workshops. We first heard of Calma back in September of 2019 when Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas and caused catastrophic devastation. She set out to create and sell beautiful bouquets in order to donate all proceeds for recovery efforts in the island. We fell in love with her designs immediately but were also moved by her instinctual willingness to help people in need. She sees the value of educating consumers about floral tendencies and buying trends—something that we believe in and think is incredibly important for the future of our industry. She is another trailblazer in the floral sector, one who quickly changed her business model because of the pandemic and a member that makes us proud to be part of this community.

Q: As a member of the flower industry, what has COVID-19 taught you? 

A: Operating a flower brand during Covid-19 has taught me that I need to be flexible as a business owner. Before the pandemic, I had made the decision to focus solely on events and not really focus on every day flowers & orders. Once the pandemic hit, I quickly realized that wasn't going to work in this new landscape. Even though every day flower orders aren't as profitable as events, I realized that if I wanted to keep Calma afloat and relevant, I was going to have to start taking every day orders and setting up my online shop.

Q: How do you think this pandemic will affect the future of our industry? 

A: In terms of the future, I'm really unsure of how this is going to affect the industry in the long term. I don't think events (as we knew them before) will return anytime soon so it's all about finding new ways to connect while remaining profitable.

Q: Do you have any recommendations to floral wholesalers/importers/distributors? 

A:  If I could recommend one thing to wholesalers it would be to work with florists on quantity minimums. Obviously, the days of ordering 20+ boxes of flowers for one event are over - at least for the foreseeable future. 

Q: Do you believe flowers have the ability to connect people? If so, how?

A: Personally, I've been blown away by the amount of people who are still ordering flowers. Especially During Mother's Day! It warms my heart that people still turn to flowers as a receptacle of joy. When I decided to start taking orders again, I didn't think anyone would order. But they did! And I think that in itself speaks to the joy and beauty that flowers put out into the world.

Gabriel Becerra- President of Golden Flowers

Gabriel has been in the flower industry for 28 years. He was born and raised in Bogota, Colombia and moved to Miami in 1992 to take on the role of President at Golden Flowers. Throughout his years in the industry, he has served as an advisor and board member for associations such as WFFSA, AFIF and AFE. If you ever catch him around the office, you’ll see him wearing a big pin that reads “Helping Peoples Express Feelings with Flowers”. He is one of the industry’s biggest cheerleaders and is a huge proponent of innovation and the transformational potential of our industry. He’ll come up with “crazy” ideas that somehow work and will never miss an opportunity to buy his wife flowers. He believes in the power of our community and is one of the humblest humans we have ever met. We can bet $20 that as he reads this introduction he’s probably blushing or feeling somewhat uncomfortable. He doesn’t like the spotlight but deserves every praise he gets. We are proud to call him our leader and even more proud at how he has helped us navigate the waters during the chaos of covid-19.

Q: As a member of the flower industry, what has COVID-19 taught you? 

A:  For many years, I had heard and believed that flowers were recession proof”. This pandemic has proven just that. Furthermore, since the 1990s, we have promoted the idea that we are in the business of helping people express feelings with our products—this has become especially true and real during these times. During the last couple of months, I’ve had time to reflect and have a newfound appreciation for the farm workers, especially the single mothers, and people of our organization for their drive and commitment to our industry. This pandemic should give us the confidence, as an industry, that our flowers—what we dedicate our lives to—are essential aspects to the emotional well-being of humans, especially while quarantined. I also want to stress that if all the different actors and members of the industry work together, we can do ANYTHING. Finally, having seen pictures of and videos of our frontline heroes receiving flowers has given us the energy to work harder as members of this industry.

Q: How do you think this pandemic will affect the future of our industry? 

A: I think as people cannot go out as much as before, they will like to have flowers around their houses much more. Unfortunately, some people have had to close their business but that will bring opportunities to newcomers and newer generations. Additionally, this will force us to change some of our processes and try things that before were deemed “impossible”.

Q: Do you have any recommendations to floral wholesalers/importers/distributors?

A: My recommendations would be:

- Believe in your business and your people.
- Find creative ways to reach consumers and create partnerships with retailers or event planners.

- Promote a united message like: “We help people express feelings with flowers”.
- Be proud of what we/you do—it’s definitely not for the faint of heart
- Involve new/young people in the business.

Q: Do you believe flowers have the ability to connect people? If so, how?

A: Absolutely! I had an amazing experience with my neighbors when we dropped off some flowers at their doorsteps. We also have donated flowers to our service providers at the Postal Service and food and package delivery people. Because of these moments, we have become more connected than ever. It’s been great to hear so many stories of people that cannot see or visit their loved ones but buy sending them flowers, they’ve felt closer.

Holly Chapple- Owner of Holly Chapple Flowers

In our eyes, Holly Chapple is flower industry royalty. She's the “Martha Stewart” of floral design, and coincidentally has been chosen as a top floral designer by Martha Stewart Weddings. Her designs have been featured in the most prominent wedding and lifestyle magazines in the country and she has an incredibly loyal following on social media and in real life. She has been teaching floral design for over a decade and is an advocate for modern ways of educating both floral professionals and flower lovers alike. She has the ability to awe you with her talent while also making you feel right at home with her humility and kindness. She owns Hope Flower Farm so she knows first-hand the hard work and dedication it takes to plant and harvest flowers. Holly is self-made, a go-getter, and rolls with the punches—qualities that have allowed her to succeed in the industry and have helped her transform her business during the pandemic. Her passion for flowers and all things related to our industry is infectious but most importantly, she is inclusive while still remaining true to herself and what she believes in. We are so honored to have her participate in this piece even though she was thanking us for thinking of her! (We know, we know—crazy right?)

Q: As a member of the flower industry, what has COVID-19 taught you? 

A: COVID - 19 has reaffirmed that I genuinely love my career. I had to seriously examine our situation and decide if I wanted to rebuild and just how I would do that. It has made me realize the endless possibilities for new business opportunities. It has taught me to think creatively and to reinvent and reimagine my business. Things do not have to stay as they were just because that was the way I had done business before COVID. COVID-19 is forcing me to try new business ventures because I have nothing to lose at this point. I think we get so focused on the doing in our businesses that we can't step away long enough to see if there is perhaps another path, a path that is kinder or more profitable. COVID has also reminded me that my relationships are an intricate part of my success, not only with my clients but with others in this profession, from colleagues to wholesalers, growers, and advisors.

Q: Do you have any recommendations to floral wholesalers/importers/distributors?

A: I hope that wholesalers, distributors, and importers know they must evolve. I repeatedly hear that a lot of wholesalers/growers are extremely set in their ways regarding their business practices, marketing, sourcing, and distribution. As a designer and a flower enthusiast, I hope the ability to source unique and exciting stems will continue. I hope wholesalers and growers will be open to the many creative opportunities that will happen in the coming months. 

Q: Do you believe flowers have the ability to connect people? If so, how?

A: Flowers have been my saving grace and complete joy during the COVID 19 crisis. This is not a surprise, as I am a total flower geek. However, I saw first hand that flowers and beautifully executed designs have the power to heal, restore, and bring HOPE to everyone. I have experienced some of the most meaningful and poignant moments in my life during this crisis. When all is lost, you plant a seed and begin again.

Kate Hinish- Flower Witch NYC Based Floral Designer

Kate, or Flower Witch as she’s known in the insta world, is a rising star not just within our industry but also among more than 20 thousand people that follow her on Instagram that live for her cheeky and clever captions. They are relatable and tap into millennial references such as the “bend and snap” from Romcom film, Legally Blond. These captions are paired with whimsical floral designs that are a mix of childhood nostalgia with contemporary trends. Think Lisa Frank meets Pet Nat wines and “no more Zoom calls plz”. We’ve been fans of Kate’s designs for years but when the pandemic hit we reached out via Instagram trying to come up with a list of resources and fell in love with her personality. She was just as lost as we were and, in a time, when she probably was dealing with a lot of uncertainty and stress, she used her platform as a safe space for her followers to complain, vent and feel less alone. That probably wasn’t easy for her but it showed us just how brave she is. With what we can imagine are hundreds of DMs per day, she takes the time to answer each and every one. She’s so sincere in her replies that it feels like we’ve been friends for years, trying to navigate the craziness of the times together. If you don’t follow her for her floral designs and eye for aesthetically pleasing photos, follow her for her realness. In this day and age, it’s hard to come by people as genuine as Kate.

Q: As a member of the flower industry, what has COVID-19 taught you? 

A: Covid-19 has taught me how fragile our industry is. The entire industry is currently in shambles. I haven't worked for months since all of this started and all of my events for the rest of the year have been postponed to 2021. I am just one florist in such a huge industry. Companies, freelancers, shops, wholesalers, flower farmers are all in extremely tough situations. Will there be work? Will all of the harvested flowers be sold? Will events ever exist in the way that they used to? Will all of my booked weddings cancel rather than postpone? There are so many questions and unfortunately, we are in uncharted territory so there are not a lot of answers. Flowers that have been harvested based on last year's sales are being thrown away because all events are essentially cancelled and transportation of goods is being majorly affected. Not only that, but all of the people in this industry that are self-employed such as freelancers are out of work indefinitely and may not have access to healthcare if they were to get sick. Small businesses that were not able to receive any of the loans from the government are unsure if they will have to shut permanently. It has really shown me how much change needs to be made moving forward.

Q: How do you think this pandemic will affect the future of our industry? 

A: I believe that a floral union should be formed so that freelancers have access to health care and regular unemployment benefits. I think that there is a lot of good (working with more local farmers, being more sustainable with the products we use, composting etc.) that can come out of this when things begin to cool down but it will take a lot of work and working together. I have also seen a lot of support throughout all of this which has shown me how amazing this industry is and how special it is to be part of.

Q: Do you believe flowers have the ability to connect people? If so, how?

A: 100%. Every day I am connected through flowers with people that I have never met. I am amazed at the amount of support I have received through Instagram specifically with people that I would have never interacted with had it not been because of flowers. I have made countless friends through this platform and even more friends in the industry in general. Flowers have been the way that I have made some of the most meaningful relationships in my life. 

Flowers are also historically a part of all of the most meaningful events in life. Weddings, funerals, birthdays, anniversaries- I could go on with so many more examples! Flowers connect people through these events and have done so forever! Even with this pandemic, people are still sending flowers to their loved ones. It is easy to get discouraged, but I am confident that flowers are not going anywhere. For as long as there are people, there will be flowers connecting them!

Sahid Nahim- Founder of New Bloom Solutions

Sahid has been in the floral industry for 16 years as a sales consultant for both wholesalers and retailers. He also has a background in the luxury and hospitality industry. He is the founder of New Bloom Solutions which is a digital marketing and e-commerce development agency specializing in the floral industry. Sahid also manages the @nyc_flowermarket account on Instagram and that’s how we first met. We wanted to do a piece on New York City’s Flower district and contacted him so he could give us some tips and pointers. He was so helpful and even connected us with Troy and his team at JRose Wholesale so we could ask questions about the hustle and bustle of the district. Ever since then, we’ve been flower friends. Sahid understands the importance of collaboration within our industry and shares many of the same values that we feel are important. He also believes in the need for digital marketing in the floral sector as we continue to evolve as a community.

Q: As a member of the flower industry, what has COVID-19 taught you? 

A: COVID has reaffirmed that nothing is for certain. In industries like ours, companies should have agile business plans to pivot quickly and adjust for unforeseen market changes and unstable demand.  

Q: How do you think this pandemic will affect the future of our industry? 

A:  It seems that the direct model from farm level to consumer, florist, DIYers, and or Wholesalers- is already being explored by a few. Social media and e-commerce will be more critical than ever, and staying engaged outside of the sales relationship will be a necessary form of connection with our customer base. 

Q: Do you have any recommendations to floral wholesalers/importers/distributors?

A:

  • Optimize your Digital marketing, Social Media, Website, and E-commerce strategies.
  • Stay authentically engaged with your customers.
  • Look outside of our industry for inspiration, innovations, and collaborations. 
  • If you are not sure of what to do next, look into "Design thinking."

Q: Do you believe flowers have the ability to connect people? If so, how?

A: Our passion for flowers keeps us all connected. For the past eight weeks, my agency has been doing a daily show for one of our clients called "15 Minutes with An Industry Peer". The show is a way to keep the South Florida florist and event community informed, connected and inspired. The great thing is that we have had over 40 different guests. That comes to show the willingness our floral community has in sharing, inspiring, and collaborating within our industry. We are all in this together, and together, we stand the best chance of success. 

So, as we take all of these lessons in, we might wonder to ourselves or out loud “When will things get back to normal?” Unfortunately, we don’t have the answer to that and we might even be facing a “new normal”. What we know is that as the world unexpectedly shifted we found comfort in each other, we connected in new ways and we faced these incredibly uncertain times head-on by creating new and innovative opportunities to sell flowers. The optimists in us would even say that flowers are having a moment, they’re making a comeback— what do you think?

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